How many presidents have sued people, corporations, banks, for defamation, for libel, etc. (for any reason at all).

NOT how many have been sued... The other way around.

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    Are you talking about during presidency, after presidency, or before?
    – Ron Beyer
    Jul 24, 2019 at 11:38
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    Technically, whenever the DOJ brings a suit against someone, it would count as POTUS suing them. The White House also has an office for the chief counsil who is the legal services for official matters (i.e. for the office of the President) as well as the President's Personal Attorneys (aka, the lawyer for the person who at this moment is the president). The former will be paid out of federal budgets, while the latter is out of pocket.
    – hszmv
    Jul 24, 2019 at 13:20
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    @hszmv The question deals specifically with a suit for defamation, libel, slander or related issues. Those will not normally be raised in a suit against Congress. Neither DOJ nor the office of white house counsel would bring a defamation suit on behalf of the President. ... Jul 24, 2019 at 18:43
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    @hszmv Nor is it common in fact to settle questions of who has authority under the constitution by a President suing Congress. More often the President acts under authority he claims to have, and leaves it to Congress, members of congress, state officials or others who may have standing to sue him, if they think the Presidential action is without authority. Youngstown Sheet and Tube vs Sawyer was a classic case of this sort, although the suit named an executive official, not the president himself. Today such a suit might well name the President as defendant. Jul 24, 2019 at 18:44
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1 Answer 1


I can find, in a quick google search, no record of a President who brought a suit for defamation, libel, or slander while in office. Since the famous case of NY Times vs Sullivan, a President who wished to sue for alleged defamation about any aspect of his official conduct or fitness for office would need to prove "actual malice" which is a high (but not impossible) bar to clear.

As described in This article Goldwater v. Ginzburg (1969) was a case of losing candidate Barry Goldwater suing Fact magazine and its editor Ralph Ginzburg, over a published statement that Goldwater had a “severely paranoid personality and was psychologically unfit for the high office to which he aspired”. Goldwater won the suit, although he got much less than he sought. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the verdict, finding that the "actual malice" standard had been clearly met. The US Supreme Court did not accept the case for review, but Justice Black wrote:

I cannot subscribe to the result the Court reaches today because I firmly believe that the First Amendment guarantees to each person in this country the unconditional right to print what he pleases about public affairs ...

The public has an unqualified right to have the character and fitness of anyone who aspires to the presidency held up for the closest scrutiny. Extravagant, reckless statements and even claims which may not be true seem to me an inevitable and perhaps essential part of the process by which the voting public informs itself of the qualities of a man who would be president.

according to Black. But the Court did not so hold.

In the article "If the President Is Libeled, Can He Sue? Should He?" Julie Hilden discussed a then-possible suit by President George W. Bush over a news story that he had been drinking, contrary to his public statements. (No such suit was ever filed.) Hilden concluded that such a suit might well be legally permitted, but should never be brought as a matter of policy.

Neither article mentions any case of an actual US President bringing such a suit. Nor can I find any other account of such a suit.

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